Martin Lewis: Drive down the price 
of motoring by putting brakes on running costs

Cars at Southampton docks   Photo: Steve Parsons/PA Wire
Cars at Southampton docks Photo: Steve Parsons/PA Wire
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Cars cost – never mind buying them, the running cost of a typical motor is now £3,000 a year (source: AA).

And with new car registrations only weeks away, we thought we’d pimp your motor MoneySaving with a variety of ways to hack the cost.

Check your photo licence or risk a £1,000 fine:

More than two million licences have expired. The licence itself may be valid, but the photo needs renewing every 10 years. So check your card’s section 4b date and if it’s expired, go to www.gov.uk/renew-driving-licence.

A year’s car insurance for 96p (fully comprehensive):

That’s the record result from one of my site users, Barbara, using every step in my cheap car insurance system. She says: “When I found my car insurance for £120.96 I thought I was doing well. But when I also got £120 cashback I realised I had done really, really well.”

For the full system and short-term promos the comparison sites miss, got to mse.me/carinsurance.

In a nutshell…

a) There’s no one cheapest insurer, so to get as many quotes as possible. Different comparison sites search different insurers. My latest order is Google.co.uk, Confused.com and MoneySupermarket.com.

b) Check insurers that comparisons miss. Comparison sites don’t capture the entire market. The biggies, including Aviva.co.uk, DirectLine.com and Zurich.co.uk, only offer their products directly.

c) More than one car at home? Comparison sites don’t currently offer multi-car discounts. If you have two or more cars in your household, check Admiral MultiCar, Churchill, Direct Line and Privilege.

Tweak your driving to cut fuel use by 30 per cent:

How you drive has huge impact on cost, and I don’t just mean ‘boy racers slow down’. Think of the accelerator as a money pump: the harder you press, the higher your fuel spend.

This isn’t about max speed, but not revving so hard to get to it. Accelerate gradually, stay under 3,000 revs and drive in the highest comfortable gear.

Remember that braking burns fuel – it converts the speed you’ve paid for into heat. I’m not saying never stop, but good road positioning with lots of space in front lets you slow naturally without braking to eke out fuel.

Use hidden council ‘fewer fails’ MOT centres.

If your car’s on the cusp of needing repairs, and you’re unhappy with your current test centre (and think it’s maybe over-zealous in fault-spotting to boost its repairs business), little known council-run MOT centres set up for buses/ambulances, are also open to the public.

The key is they don’t do repairs, so they’ve no vested interest to fail you. You can find your nearest council MOT centres at www.mse.me/mots. Many motorists fail needlessly, so walk round your car and do some basic checks on things like lights and windscreen wipers.

Don’t smoke with kids in the car.

Smoke with kids in the car and you can be fined £50. From 1 Oct it’ll be illegal to smoke in vehicles in England and Wales if there’s an under 18 in it.

Try adding mum, son or Aunt Dot to car insurance to save £1,000s

Bizarrely, covering more people on a policy (who may use the car as second drivers) can cut costs if it brings down the risk average. As @Faevouritexox tweeted me: “Thanks, as a young driver my insurer wanted £ 5,000 but after adding mum and dad it dropped to £1,900.” It’s not just for younger drivers – as long as you bring down your average risk profile, it can bring down the price too.

Get three per cent cashback every time you buy petrol or diesel

The Santander.co.uk 123 credit card gives a long-term three per cent cashback on fuel and train fare spending (maximum £9 per month), two per cent in department stores and one per cent in supermarkets. There’s a £24 annual fee, so it’s only good for serious drivers. Always repay it IN FULL to avoid the 16.5 per cent rep APR and you’re quids in.

Car insurance is rising 10 per cent, yet you can lock a quote in at today’s price.

Prices are predicted to rise 10 per cent in 2015, even before November’s insurance tax rise, which’ll typically add £12 to new policies. So far it’s already up five per cent. Yet Aviva.co.uk, LV.co.uk, AA.co.uk and more have quotes valid for 60 days, , so grab them now and you’re effectively locking in those prices in case they rise in the meantime.

Not at renewal? You can still save mid-policy

Unless you’ve claimed, you can usually cancel a policy for a fee of around £50 and get a refund for the rest of the year (though you won’t earn no claims for that year). So, if you do find a substantially better deal, which also means you could lock in now to forestall future price hikes, it is possible to switch to it.

There’s more help on switching mid policy at www.mse.me/carinsurance

Cut fuel costs by up to 50p with a nifty tool.

Quite simply petrolprices.com shows the cheapest petrol station near you at any given time. The differences can be huge.

Private parking firms CAN’T fine you – don’t believe them

Many tickets from supermarkets, retail parks and private car park firms do better impressions than Alistair McGowan. Some even call themselves Parking Charge Notices (PCNs) to mimic official Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs).

Yet they’ve no right to fine you – these aren’t fines or even tickets, they’re invoices. And like any invoice, if you think it isn’t fair, write back and explain why and that you won’t pay. There’s full help at www.moneysavingexpert.com/privateparking

Don’t assume you pay less for third-party car insurance than fully comprehensive.

It’s counter-logical, but by selecting comprehensive cover, some firms see you as a lower risk. This means the amount they reduce your costs by more than counterbalances the fact you’re getting more cover. There are no hard and fast rules though, so try both.

Some save £100s on car insurance by legitimately tweaking job titles:

An illustrator is often cheaper than an artist, an editor than a journalist, and a PA than a secretary.

I’m not saying lap dancers should call themselves cabinet ministers (or vice versa). But these days many people have such specific job descriptions car insurers don’t list them, as Fabsternation tweeted: “I saved £300+ going from creative director to marketing manager. Crazy.”

Fifty per cent of people beat unfair council parking fines even after rejection.

If your ticket’s unfair, appeal. Yet even if you lose that, over 50% of those who challenge council parking tickets they believe are unfair, and take them all the way to the Independent Traffic Penalty Tribunal, win.